The Clutter Spectrum

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Where are you on the clutter spectrum? Can you stand living in your own filth and pestilence, or does everything have to be spick and span with everything in its own place? Old Harold is somewhere in the middle, maybe swinging more towards the cluttered side. The thing of it is, clutter is only clutter in the eye of the beholder. People living in clutter don’t see the clutter unless awakened to the mess. A paper or two on the desk breeds over weeks to stacks of paper, books, pens, dust, lamps that don’t work, an extra computer monitor, a ball of paper clips, a few coffee cups with air dried remnants and a tangle of USB wires hooked or unhooked to charge whatever gadgets you have. Cast your eye a little further, and it turns out your desk is a microcosm of the rest of your house. It’s like someone turned off your clutter filter or turned on the part of your brain that recognizes the state of your surroundings.

As they say, the key to remedying any affliction is to first recognize you’ve got a problem. You’re not average or ‘normal’ and need to find ways to tidy up on a more regular basis or stop spending vast amounts of time putting things in perfect order with floors and countertops ‘clean enough to eat off’ except for soup and cereal. What are the tell-tale signs you have a clutter problem? It’s when friends or relatives are about to come over and you look around and say “Great Jebus, this place is in an awful mess” or something more colorful. A frenzy of pushing and shoving things into their proper or hidden places, a quick sweep/mop or vacuum, remaining clean dishes out/dirty dishes into the washer, sponging the counter and oven tops, flush the sink until that ‘smell’ goes away, hanging up jackets on chairs around the kitchen table and shazam things are “presentable” until you go to the bathroom and need to change the towels, scrub the tub/toilet, wash the spots of the mirror and sweep what’s on top of the vanity into a drawer. Then you either close the bedroom doors or toss clothes into closets, ‘make’ the beds and then catch the dog to finish the hair cut you started last week.

So when do you know you have a problem? Well the shift to problem-hood can be insidious. As your tolerance rises you can catch IDGAS (I don’t give a turd) syndrome, where you realize if your friends and relatives can’t stand the mess, they’ll visit less often and you don’t have to clean as much. A voyage into despair can then ensue where wind up on a Canadian made intervention show that documents your squalor, coaches you on what to do, but has no budget to do any work. If you’re lucky, friends and relatives will threaten to call the health department, which might spur you into action. If someone does lodge an anonymous complaint, however, the health department will likely provide you with masks and gloves left over from the pandemic and put you an assistance list so long you’ll be six weeks under a fallen stack of papers before they ring your doorbell, which was disconnected by the alarm company when they installed your new-fangled system.

So what can you really do? The solution is apparently not to procrastinate until you feel like doing something, as this time will never come. Set a really annoying weekly reminder on your phone, start small, pat yourself on the back or reward yourself for a job well done, and this will hopefully perpetuate you into action. Option two is to hire a cleaning lady (or man I guess) that has reasonable rates and heavy fingers. With these solutions in mind, old Harold signs off with his thought for the day: Strive to become exceptional at being normal and you too can join the crowd that paints the sheep black that don’t conform.

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